October 22, 2013

The Coon Rapids-Bayard school district will host the West Central Iowa Tech Institute from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30.

The free conference will focus on how educators can incorporate technology in the classroom to reach the modern students, said Brent Jorth, Coon Rapids-Bayard principal.

"We live in a world where kids are more connected than ever. Unfortunately, the classrooms and school systems have not changed as quickly," said Jorth. "In the classroom, kids power down, they're not as connected as they are outside those walls."

The goal of using technology in the classroom is to "increase connectivity," both with other students in the classroom and with learners outside the Coon Rapids-Bayard district, Jorth added.

"People across the globe are passionate about the same things as our students," he said. "We're hoping using laptops will increase that connectedness."

The opening keynote speaker for the institute will be Shannon Miller. A teacher and librarian in the Van Meter Community School District, Miller will lecture on ways to give students a voice in their education and the tools to broadcast their ideas.

The closing keynote address will be given by Scott McLeod, a former Iowa State University professor, now director of innovation for the Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency. Very active on Twitter, McLeod is described by Jorth as a "change agent." His presentation will address the ways education must change to meet the diverse needs of today's learners.

Throughout the day, attendees will have the opportunity to attend five breakout sessions. Topics range from how to use an interactive whiteboard in the classroom to how to engage students, with demonstrations on how to navigate various applications on various devices such as MacBooks or Chromebooks, and online, such as Google Docs. Sessions also focus on possible uses of technology in specific subject areas, such as math, science and reading, to address concepts such as collaboration and critical thinking, and for administration purposes such as efficiency, assessment and evaluation.

The sessions are taught by professionals the Coon Rapids-Bayard staff and administration have seen at other conferences, or who were recommended by organizations and professional networks, such as the Heartland Area Education Agency.

One of these presenters will be Trent Grundmeyer, Drake University professor and 2013 Iowa Principal of the Year, who recently joined the Carroll Community School District as consultant to the assistant principal at Carroll High School. Grundmeyer said Jorth had been one of his teachers when he was a principal in Indianola. His three presentations will focus on how to increase college readiness through one-to-one initiatives, how to utilize preparation materials to maximize student work in the classroom, and a review of a national Horizon Report on technology adaptation that will help educators understand what classroom changes in technology are likely to occur in the future.

"I've done the college-readiness presentation three or four times, and most of the times educators find it helpful," said Grundmeyer. "It should be a great institute."

The categories are designed to give teachers the "opportunity to choose their own professional learning," said Jorth.

Brainstorming for the institute began in August, following preparation training for the district's rollout of a one-to-one initiative; in January 2014, students in grades 6-12 will receive MacBook Airs. The teachers suggested the training they needed, and the administration recruited the appropriate presenters.

So far, 100 educators have registered. About half of those educators are faculty and staff from the Coon Rapids-Bayard district. The other half are from neighboring districts, with educators from Norwalk traveling the farthest.

Coon Rapids-Bayard students will not have class on Wednesday.

Registration is still open at https://www.smore.com/cy4t-west-central-iowa-tech-institute. Detailed information on the various sessions is also available on the site.

Area educators who have not yet signed up are welcome to do so, said Jorth.